Austin, Texas – Essential Information

Texas State Capitol in Austin
Texas State Capitol in Austin

Austin is the capital of Texas. It is also known as the “live music capital of the world”.

Other labels assigned to Austin in recent years include “the third best place to live in the US”, “the second fastest growing city in the US”, “the most restaurants and bars than any other city in the US”, and more.

Located in the Central Texas Hill Country, Austin is approximately 230 miles from Mexico and less than 200 miles from 3 of the 10 largest U.S. cities (192 miles from Dallas to its north, 79 miles from San Antonio to its south, and 162 miles from Houston to its southeast).

The Colorado river runs through Austin, and there are seven lakes stretching from Austin city limits to a point 150 miles upstream. The largest of these lakes is Lake Travis.

The Texas Hill Country has some stunning views, and you’ll see some of the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets you can imagine.

Austin used to be a small laid-back city in Texas. For the most of it, the “laid-back” stayed, but in recent years, Austin has experienced significant growth.

Austin now has 950 high-tech companies, employing about 110,000 people. More than 400 of these companies are involved in software development. This is why Austin is also known as “Silicon Hills”. Some of the large high-tech companies in Austin include 3M, AMD, Dell, IBM, Motorola, etc.

Cost of Living in Austin

Despite all the growth of recent years, Austin still offers some best cost-of-living figures in the US. The list below compares other US cities with Austin. Using San Francisco as an example, read it as follows: To have the same standard of living in Austin, I have to make 50% of the money I have to make in San Francisco.

  • San Francisco, CA: 50%
  • Los Angeles, CA: 66%
  • Denver, CO: 87%
  • Seattle, WA.: 65%
  • New York (Manhattan), NY: 41% (the most expensive city on the list)
  • Atlanta, GA: 98%
  • Chicago, IL: 79%
  • Dallas, TX: 95%
  • Phoenix, AZ: 103% (the cheapest city on the list)
  • St. Paul, MN: 93%

Source: CNN Money Cost of Living Calculator

As you can see from this, Austin’s cost of living is very comparable to that of Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta, but it is significantly cheaper than Manhattan.

Depending on area, a 2000 sq. ft. home can be bought for $150,000 to $200,000. The average price for a home in Austin is $148,000, and the average rent for a two bedroom, two bath apartment is $800.

Also look at Bankrate’s Cost of Living Calculator.  It not only compares the costs of living in two cities, but automatically compares nearly 50 other price points pertaining to housing, food and lifestyle needs.

Population

In the 2010 census, the City of Austin had a population of 790,390 (68.3% White, 35.1% Hispanic, 8.1% Black, and 6.3% Asian and other). The population of the Austin Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which consists of Travis, Hays, Williamson, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties, is currently 1,705,075.

Education

Austin is a highly educated city, with 43% of adults having 16 or more years of schooling.

The Independent School Districts in the Austin area are: Austin, Bastrop, Del Valle, Dripping Springs, Eanes, Elgin, Florence, Georgetown, Hays, Hutto, Jarrell, Lago Vista, Lake Travis, Leander, Liberty Hill, Manor, McDade, Pflugerville, Round Rock, Smithville, Taylor, San Marcos, and Wimberley.

Universities & Colleges

Austin is also home to the largest component of the University of Texas system. UT Austin, the largest public university in the US, is a major research university that is home to 50,000 students, 2,700 faculty, and 17,000 staff members.

The Austin Community College (ACC) has 9 campuses and more than 70 teaching locations throughout the area. It currently has about 26,000 students.

Transportation

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, situated to the southeast of downtown Austin, was opened in May 1999.

Automobiles: New residents must obtain a Texas driver’s license within 30 days of establishing a residence. Contact the Dept of Public Safety at (512) 424-2076 for more information.

Major Highways

If you’re going to live here, it would be handy to get to know the following highways:

  • I-35: Runs north-south through downtown area and divides East and West Austin.
  • Hwy 183: From the north, runs northwest-southeast, crosses I-35, then turns south. It passes Austin-Bergstrom International airport.
  • Hwy 290: Comes in from the East, joins I-35 a few miles north of downtown Austin, and breaks away from I-35 a few miles south of Austin to continue to the west.
  • Loop 360: (Capital of Texas highway) Runs north-south on the west side of Austin, crossing Hwy 183, Loop 1, and Hwy 290.
  • Loop 1: (Mo-Pac Expressway) Runs north-south on the west side of Austin, crossing FM 1325.

If you can only remember two of them, let it be I-35 and Hwy 183.

Climate

The climate of Austin is humid subtropical with hot summers and relatively mild winters. Daytime temperatures in summer are hot, with highs averaging over 95°F (35°C) during July and August. It often goes over 100°F during summer. Winter temperatures average around 42°F (5-6°C), but there are usually a few short periods in winter where temperatures drop below freezing. It rarely snows in Austin.

Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year with heaviest rain in May and September. Average yearly rainfall is about 34 inches. Austin averages 300 days of sunshine each year.

Crime rate

Austin has a crime index of 108. The US national average is 100. Since Austin’s crime rate is slightly higher than the national average, you may think we have a crime problem. The first thing to realize is that the US national average is nowhere near for instance South Africa’s crime rate. Then, the 108 is representative of the entire Austin area. Some areas could be problem spots that are pushing the crime rate up. There are plenty of other good, relatively crime-free areas to live in. We don’t think crime in Austin is something to worry about.

Allergies

Any person who plans on settling in Austin should be aware that the area is well-known for allergies. Not everybody suffers from it of course, but if you’re suffering from allergies and currently living in a non-allergies area, your problem is likely to increase. (We’re not trying to put you off Austin, but you should know…)

Neighborhoods

Some of the nicer neighborhoods / surrounding cities to live in are: North Austin, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Lago Vista, Cedar Park, Leander, Lakeway, and Dripping Springs. (Locals: Do you know of more nice neighborhoods to add to the list? Please let us know.

Recreation

Austin is well-known for outdoor activities. Some of the activities available are:

  • Boating: There are enough lakes in the area for canoeing, motor-boating, and sailing.
  • Hike-and-Bike Trails: Barton Creek Greenbelt, Town Lake Greenbelt, Waller Creek Walkway.
  • Camping: There are numerous state parks in the area, e.g. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.
  • Golf: Austin boasts several great courses.
  • Horseback Riding: Afterall, this is Texas!

See Things to do in Austin for more information on fun things to do in Austin.

See our map to get a better idea of school districts and highways.

  • Hi there

    I’m looking into immigrating, hopefulle within the next twelve months. I read the sobering section allergies. Do you have specifics on the type of allergies to expect in Austin? A running nose hits me pretty hard here in JHB with the changing of the seasons😕. Is there a similari dust/pollen/excessive polution problem in Austin as in JHB?

    Many thanks,

    • Hi Zane,

      The biggest allergy issue is with cedar pollen. People here typically call them “Cedar trees”, but it is actually a Juniper. These things dump a lot of pollen into the air around the beginning of each year. The next prominent allergy is from Oak pollen. Then those with allergies to grass or mold (after it rained a lot) can also have an issue at certain times of the year. Here’s an article with more information.

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